What better way to enjoy the current spell of great summer weather than by cooking outside on the barbecue for family and friends. But not following good food habits could leave you and others with a nasty dose of food poisoning.
Safefood has the top tips to keep your barbecue food safe this summer.
How to clean your barbecue
If you haven’t yet used your barbecue this year, give it a thorough clean by scrubbing the metal rack with a suitable oven cleaner or a damp brush dipped in bicarbonate of soda. And remember to rinse it thoroughly with warm, soapy water afterwards.
Keep cold foods cold
When cooking and eating outdoors, food is away from your fridge for a longer period of time which can lead to germs multiplying quickly. With this in mind, keep perishable foods like salads and coleslaws in your fridge until you need them.
Defrost frozen food properly
Before you cook, make sure any frozen foods are fully thawed (preferably in the fridge on the bottom shelf; which may take overnight) before you start cooking them on the barbecue. Otherwise, they could be cooked on the outside but still raw on the inside which isn’t safe. Keep foods you plan to cook properly chilled in the fridge or a cool box until needed and light your barbecue well in advance. For charcoal barbecues, the flames should have died down before you start cooking.
Wash your hands
As with preparing any food, make sure to wash your hands before and after handling food. Always keep raw meats separate from cooked meats and ready-to-eat foods like salads. Always use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked meat when cooking. Never put cooked food on a dish that has been used for raw meat or poultry (unless it’s been thoroughly washed in between) and keep food covered whenever possible.
Cook it through
The big issue when barbecuing is making sure your food has been cooked thoroughly, all the way through. This is particularly important when you cook any poultry, pork, minced and skewered meats – that’s foods like burgers, sausages and kebabs on the barbecue - while the outside may look cooked (and in some cases burnt), the inside can still be raw.
Safefood recommend these meats should be cooked until they are piping hot all the way through, with no pink meat remaining and the juices run clear. If you’ve got lots of people visiting your barbecue and want to ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked, why not pre-cook the meat in your kitchen just before you put it on the barbecue for that great flavour.
When cooking foods on the barbecue make sure to turn them regularly and move them around the grill to ensure they are cooked evenly on all sides – then remove them from the heat and place them on a clean plate. For meats that need to be cooked all the way through be sure to cut into the centre of them to check that:
- They are piping hot all the way through
- There is no pink meat left and
- The juices run clear
If you have a meat thermometer, use it and be absolutely sure your burger is well-done – pierce the thickest part of the burger - the temperature should read 75C instantaneously.
Remember - Steaks or whole meat joints of beef or lamb can be served 'rare' as long as they are cooked on the outside as any harmful bacteria will be on the outside only, and not in the centre. So if you’re at a barbecue, insist on getting your burger well-done.
Don’t mix raw with cooked or ready-to-eat foods
If you like to marinate your meat, make sure any marinade used on raw meat is not then used as a sauce to coat vegetables or cooked meat as it will contain raw meat bacteria! If you want to use marinade as a sauce, be sure to cook it in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil before serving it.
How to use leftovers safely
If there are any leftovers from your barbecue, these should not be left outside where they may be in the sun and where insects and animals might be able to get at them. As with all leftovers, cover these foods and allow them to cool in a cool place (the kitchen) before refrigerating within 2 hours of cooking. The rule to remember for leftovers is - if in doubt, throw them out.
7 golden rules for a safe barbecue
- Keep perishable foods like salads, coleslaw and quiche in your fridge until you are about to serve them.
- Burgers, sausages and kebabs, pork and poultry must be cooked all the way through - but steaks or whole meat joints of beef or lamb can be served 'rare' as harmful bacteria are on the outside only (and not in the centre).
- If you marinate meat, don't use any marinade used on raw meat as a sauce to coat vegetables or cooked meat, as it will contain raw meat bacteria.
- If you choose to barbecue any frozen food, it must be completely thawed on the bottom shelf of your fridge before you cook it.
- When handling raw meat and poultry, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, most importantly before going on to prepare salads and other ready to eat foods.
- Once your meat is cooked thoroughly, make sure to keep cooked meat separate from raw meat and to use separate chopping boards, cooking utensils and plates. Harmful bacteria in raw meat, poultry and their juices can cross contaminate cooked food and lead to food poisoning, something your guests won’t thank you for.
- If there are leftovers from your barbecue, allow the food to cool before refrigerating, however make sure to refrigerate food within two hours of cooking. Always remember that with leftovers - if in doubt, throw it out.
For more information on food safety and healthy eating including recipes, visit the Summer Food section on www.safefood.eu or find them on Facebook.